Friday, October 28, 2011

Axiom 13: Jack of All Trades, Master of None

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-Robert Heinlein 
"There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see." -Leonaro da Vinci

I've had a lot of hobbies over the course of my life. Now I could sit here and list some of them, but let's just say I've dabbled in enough topics that I'm sure we share some interests in common. I didn't really set out to be this way. It just seems to be the bi-product of the fact I get bored too easily. I'll usually discover some new subject, get a white hot passion for it for a few weeks or months, and then become totally bored with it and move onto something else.

I think this has really worked my advantage in life. It has opened the world up to me and allowed me to connect with more people. Chances are I can walk up to someone whether they are a trash collector or a CEO and relate to them.

Stop and think for a moment about the people you normally talk to each day. What do you talk to them about? Can you only talk to Bob about baseball? Is the only thing on Jane's mind politics? Is Jim a wealth of knowledge on multiple subjects? What do you know that people talk to you about?

When I meet someone new I always poke around the surface for clues about what they are interested in. This especially works well in a business environment when I go to someone's office. I scan for college degree's, pictures, trophies, and any other personal tidbits I can spot. The more obscure the subject I can connect with someone about the stronger the connection I can build with that person. 

Here's another example: In my office I have a clock with the Yuengling Lager logo on it. It is my favorite beer but unfortunately is not sold anywhere here in Texas. That means the people around here really don't have a clue what Yuengling is unless they are either from the East Coast or are knowledgeable about beer. So time after time I've gotten responses like, "I love that beer back home", or "I wish they sold that beer here". It has been a great conversation starter and consistently gives me something more interesting to connect with people on beside the weather or sports. 

From now on make a conscious effort to pursue at least one new hobby every month. It will add to your skill set, allow you to connect with more people, make you more well rounded, open new opportunities, and mature you in a way like no other.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review of Jeff's Egg Cream Sodas

So what the hell is an egg cream soda? I wasn't sure myself until I stumbled onto Jeff's Egg Cream Soda website. Apparently its a mixture of syrup, milk, and soda water. Egg cream sodas are popular up in the New York area where they are normally made and served in delis. They're not typically bottled so no one has really seen or heard of them in a large part of the country.

I was intrigued enough to order Jeff's Rainbow Pack, which includes a six-pack of all four flavors: Jeff's Chocolate Soda, Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda, Jeff's Vanilla Dream Soda, and Jeff's Orange Dream Soda. You'll probably never see these for sell in any stores so you'll have to order them online if you want to try them for yourself. Shipping soft drinks is quite expensive so expect to pay at least $50 for the experience.

It took about 10 days for me to receive my order in the mail. I was almost doubting if they were going to ship them or not because I never received a tracking number or shipping confirmation. However, finally they did arrive at my doorstep and the anticipation was killing me.

So here's what I though about Jeff's Egg Cream Sodas: 

Jeff's Chocolate Soda - (My Rating: 8.5 out of 10)

The chocolate soda is the flagship of Jeff's sodas. I thought the taste was actually quite good and very unique. I've never had another drink that tasted anything like it. I can see this being a very acquired taste so there will be a lot of people out there who will not like it. However I enjoyed it so much I could easily drink two or three of these in one sitting. It tastes sort of like a mix of Coca Cola and chocolate syrup or chocolate milk. I know that description doesn't make it sound very appealing, but I really liked the flavor.

Jeff's Diet Chocolate Soda - (My Rating: 4.0 out of 10)

I don't enjoy drinking any diet sodas and this was not an exception. It tasted like a cross between flat Diet Coke and chocolate syrup. The chocolate flavor was good, but the soda flavor was not very good. I wasn't able to finish it, but if you like diet sodas (and egg cream sodas) then maybe you'll think otherwise.

Jeff's Vanilla Dream Soda - (My Rating: 5.0 out of 10)

It looked like milk which I thought was a little strange. The taste was like carbonated sweet milk, or carbonated Carnation Instant Breakfast. It tasted okay, but this will definitely be an acquired taste for those that really enjoy this. For me I thought it was a little too strange, so I wouldn't probably order this one again.

Jeff's Orange Dream Soda - (My Rating: 6.5 out of 10)

I have drank a lot of orange cream sodas in my life and this one tastes more like a dreamsicle ice cream than any other one I've ever had. I think why this one works so well is because it has more of a cream flavor rather than a citric soda flavor. The more I drank the better and better it tasted. If you like orange cream sodas this one is worth a look.

Overall Recommendation

If you want a unique experience give these sodas a try. I would recommend trying the chocolate soda and the orange dream soda first. Then you can try the diet chocolate soda and the vanilla dream soda if you are feeling more adventurous. Just realize that these are going to be unlike any other sodas you've had before so YMMV.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Axiom 12: You Can Take on Any Company and Win

"If a company's own research does not make its product obsolete, another's will." 
-Theodore Levitt

"There is no growth industry, only growth opportunities." -Theodore Levitt

"The investor of today does not profit from yesterday's growth." -Warren Buffett

When people trash talk big business it is usually because they believe it oppresses the little people. The belief that somehow an average person can never become successful because big business will stomp them out. I don't believe the situation is as hopeless for the little guy as some people make it out to be, and I believe that everyone has a chance to build an empire.

In 1960 Theodore Levitt wrote a paper called Marketing Myopia. The article is about why big businesses fail. Levitt wrote that the problem is a combination of focusing on the product over the customer and then seeing that product as an infinite growth industry.

The case Levitt uses for an example is the railroad industry. For the first half of the 20th century travelling by train was the only way for people to travel long distances comfortably. The problem was that the railroad companies only saw their business in terms of trains (the product) when they should have seen it in terms of transporting people (the customer). So while the railroad companies focused on improving rail travel the airline industry came along and decimated them by fulfilling the customer's travel need with a better product. 

Understand that customers have needs and there are always new and better ways to fill those needs. Entrepreneurs have taken down the biggest companies time after time because they understood this concept. Likewise, huge corporations like IBM, Apple, Amazon, and Netflix have stayed relevant and successful by changing their product and service offerings to match their customer's needs. 

Levitt's writing teaches us that its not as easy being on the top in business as some people think, and that everyone has a shot at overtaking their competition if they focus on the correct things.